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18 Spookiest Ghost Towns In the USA You Can Visit

Charlotte Bailey

If abandoned buildings, old mines, or the chance to see a ghostly vision are your thing, then a visit to one of the spookiest ghost towns in the USA should be on your bucket list.

Lucky for you, we sifted through the numerous creepy towns and came up with a list of 18 of the best ghost towns in America. 

You might be surprised at how modern some of them are, stepping out of that ingrained idea that all ghost towns should be abandoned wild west saloons. 

Scattered across the USA, from Alaska to Texas and California to Pennsylvania, you will find evidence of America’s history in the form of ghost towns. 

Visiting the abandoned places on this list will provide you with a one-of-a-kind experience, so let’s delve right in.

18 Abandoned Ghost Towns In The USA

Whether you’re a history buff or a Halloween lover, here are the creepiest ghost towns in America.

1. Rhyolite, Nevada

One of the best ghost towns in the US that is a must-visit is Rhyolite in Nevada
One of the best ghost towns in the US that is a must-visit is Rhyolite in Nevada

If you want to visit one of the best US ghost towns, then Rhyolite is the place for you. You will find this gem of a town close to the edge of Death Valley, set back in a volcanic rock canyon—one of the most interesting places to visit in Nevada.

It all began in 1904 when prospectors found gold in the area, with Rhyolite growing quite quickly as a result, but unfortunately, this hustle and bustle didn’t last too long.

This scary town boasted an opera house, a hospital, and, not too surprisingly, stock exchange and was the largest town in Death Valley. 

Yet 1907 heralded a time of financial panic, causing businesses to close their doors and residents to move away, seeking greener pastures.

By 1916 the power and lights were switched off, creating one of the most famous ghost towns in the USA. 

Visiting this creepy town is one of the best things to do in Nevada, and the town is easily accessible. 

You can still see the weathered remains of the train depot, general store, and bank, which is excellent for holiday photo ops.

2. Thurmond, West Virginia

Thurmond is one of the best US ghost towns in West Virginia
Thurmond is one of the best US ghost towns in West Virginia

Thurmond forms part of the New River Gorge National Park and features a visitor center at the Thurmond historic train depot. 

You can expect to see empty shop fronts selling nothing but weeds, with only one road in and out except for the abandoned railway line that was once the town’s main feature.

If you had visited Thurmond back in the 1870s, you would have marveled at its bustling streets, which hosted thousands of residents, developers, and miners. 

The railway line running through the town was once a central thorough-fair and part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad.

Unfortunately, several setbacks hit this once-thriving town, starting with the Great Depression. 

Thurmond saw two devastating fires, and then, in 1935, the town’s last remaining bank collapsed, sealing its fate. The final straw came in the 1950s, with the diesel locomotive rendering the coal-run railroad, the town’s backbone, obsolete.

The town itself has largely been untouched by modern development, allowing visitors a glimpse into an American town of the past and making Thurmond one of the best US ghost towns in West Virginia.

3. Calico, California

one of the most popular holiday destination ghost towns in the USA is Calico, California

If you seek one of the most popular holiday destination ghost towns in the USA, Calico in Bernardino County is the place for you.

The town is the quintessential ghost town in California, allowing guests to visit the abandoned Maggie Mine and providing rides along the Calico Odessa Railroad. 

If you are up for it, you can even participate in one of the town’s spooky ghost tours, which are seriously one of the best things to do in California.

Calico started its days as a gold mining town established in 1881. However, its vibrancy was short-lived, with the residents’ abandoning it by the mid-1890s due to silver losing its value. 

The 1950s saw Calico getting a makeover when its new owner, Walter Knott, decided to restore the ghost town to its original 1880s appearance. Only 5 of the original buildings were restored.

4. Terlingua, Texas

Terlingua is one of the small towns in Texas

The town of Terlingua, situated deep within Far West Texas, was founded in the 1880s as a quicksilver mining town, although its occupancy was short-lived. 

By 1942 most of the town residents had left the area and abandoned the mines.

Today Terlingua is a must-visit place in Texas, showcasing an eccentrically Texas ghost town. 

A small community occupies the area today, mostly comprised of tour guides, lost souls, river guides, introverts, park rangers, retirees, artists, and die-hard desert fanatics.

Visitors to Terlingua can enjoy their time wandering the halls of the old jail, grabbing a drink at the local saloon (one of the best things to do in Texas), or exploring the ruins.

5. Centralia, Pennsylvania

An abandoned building in Centralia in Pennsylvania

A tale of woe surrounds Centralia, starting with a landfill burn that got way out of control. 

It all began in 1962 when the landfill fire spread into the abandoned coal mine, which extended into the coal deposits veins causing noxious sinkholes that spewed toxic fumes.

After the initial fire, the resulting damage spread across 140 acres, and by 1983 most residents in the town were forced to evacuate. 

The local highway had to be closed down because of the sinkholes and the toxic gases, officials leveled the houses, and in 2002 the town’s ZIP code was officially recalled.

It is estimated that the fire will continue to burn for the next 250 years. In 2020, four residents remained in derelict Centralia, a ghost town in Pennsylvania. These residents are content to live out their days amongst the few remaining buildings and streets.

6. Kennecott, Alaska

A spooky abandoned min in Kennecott, Alaska

You will find the once bustling mining town of Kennecott within the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska. 

The establishment of Kennecott in 1903 came about due to the area’s copper deposits. The years 1911 – 1938 were rewarding for the mines, and they processed nearly $200 million before the mines ran dry in 1938.

Due to the town’s location, at the end of a 60-mile-long dirt road, the company that owned the mines abruptly abandoned Kennecott, leaving their buildings, tools, and personal belongings behind, creating a time capsule.

During its heyday, the town featured a 14-story concentration mill, a general store, a hospital, a skating rink, a school, a tennis court, a dairy, and a recreation hall. 

Today tours of Kennecott allow you to view the mill and several other historic buildings. The very nature of Kennecott makes it one of the best American ghost towns to visit.

7. Virginia City and Nevada City, Montana

Old buildings in Virginia City in Nevada

In 1863, Alder Gulch discovered gold in the vicinity of Virginia City. 

Once the news had spread of the discovery, prospectors flocked to the area, and thus the city grew. Within a year, around 10,000 people were living in the city.

One mile down the road, another city was also growing in size, and soon Nevada City and Virginia City became known as the Rocky Mountains’ richest gold sites. 

As with other ghost towns in the USA, these two towns soon started on their decline. 

By 1875, the cities were well on their way to becoming ghost towns. By 1922 floating dredges had all but destroyed Nevada City. Although Virginia City was spared, its population was dismal. 

Today Virginia City is one of the most preserved ghost towns in the West, and there is a mile-long rail line connecting it to Nevada City for tourists, showcasing some of the histories of these two abandoned mining towns.

8. Goldfield Ghost Town, Arizona

Old wooden building at Goldfield Ghost Town, Arizona

Goldfield is a bit different from the other ghost towns on this list. The original town was established in 1892, and at its peak, it hosted 28 buildings and had around 4,000 inhabitants. 

Fast forward five years, prospectors had dug out all of the gold, leaving the town abandoned.

This abandonment was not the end for the town as it saw a brief revival between 1910 and 1926. 

The townsfolk renamed it Youngsberg, but unfortunately, population numbers declined again. 

In 1943 an accidental fire burnt down most of the remaining buildings, and the rest were reused on other projects. 

Everything changed when the new owners of Goldfield took up residence in 1983 and began their precise reconstruction of the 1890s mining town. 

Today there are several reconstructed buildings, and this ghost town in Arizona has a booming trade in ghost town tours, featuring a mine tour, a reptile museum, a mystery spot, and legends of a lost treasure. 

9. St Elmo, Colorado

Abandoned buildings in St. Elmo Ghost Town with the Rocky Mountains in the background

If paranormal activity and abandoned buildings are your things, you will want to check out St Elmo, previously known as Forrest City, a ghost town in Colorado. 

Rumor has it that this town experiences some of the state’s most extreme cases of paranormal activity. So if you are visiting ghost towns in the USA, make sure this one is on your list.

In 1880 the town hosted around 2000 occupants, drawn there by the gold and silver mining community. 

Unfortunately for the towns folk, the ore quality started to dwindle by the early 20th century, and soon after, disease struck the town, further enabling the population decline. 

By 1936 the town was mostly abandoned, although a handful of inhabitants remained, and today the hotel and general store are still open. 

You can book a stay in the privately owned hotel but keep your eye out for the evidence of the past residents who are rumored to haunt the area.

10. Nelson, Nevada

Abondoned cars in Nelson Ghost Town, Nevada
Nelson Ghost Town, Nevada – Atmosphere1/ Shutterstock

In the 1700s, the town was called Eldorado, established by Spanish settlers who found silver in the area. 

Fast forward 100 or so years, and gold prospectors, many of which were Civil war deserters, unearthed the first gold nuggets sparking one of the biggest booms that the State of Nevada has ever seen.

The mines in Nelson continued to produce ore until the 1940s. Throughout the years, various disputes over the town’s notorious mine, the Techatticup Mine, resulted in numerous slayings.

Today, many buildings remain to create a picturesque setting for film, photo, and music video shoots. Nelson is hands-down one of the spookiest ghost towns in Nevada.

11. Santa Claus, Arizona

Santa Claus in Arizona is a Christmas-themed Ghost Town in the middle of the desert
Restaurant in Sta. Claus, AZ – Joseph Sohm/ Shutterstock

When visiting ghost towns in the USA, you should include Santa Claus on your list. You will find this Christmas-themed town in the middle of the Mojave Desert. 

The founder, Nina Talbot, believed that the town’s Christmassy spirit would attract buyers, and for a while, Santa Claus was quite popular with tourists.

Unfortunately, the Christmas spirit didn’t last, and with the decline of route 66, the town was abandoned, leading it to become a ghost town. 

If you drive through Santa Claus today, you can still see the derelict red and white buildings, some sad tinsel here and there, and the memory of the jingle bells.

12. Custer, Idaho

Abandoned mining equipment in Custer, Idaho

Another old mining town, Custer, hit its peak occupation levels in 1896. 

Gold mining and a massive stamp mill created work for the residents and allowed Custer to grow large enough to feature a shoe store, laundry services, and a Chinatown with its own joss house.

Unfortunately for Custer, 1911 saw the mill close, and the residents desert their mountain homes. Only two families chose to remain. 

In 1981 the National Register of Historic Places added Custer to its lists, and rightfully so. Today most of the town is still standing and open to visitors seasonally.

13. Bodie, California

Spooky scene in Bodie Ghost Town in California

Bodie is not only an interesting US ghost town but also a unique place to visit in California.

The town was first set up as a mining camp in 1859 when gold was discovered in the area. By 1880 it had boomed so much that rumors say it housed around 10,000 inhabitants. 

Unfortunately, by 1910 the town was declining, with the railway abandoned in 1918 and the last mine closing in 1942. In the 1930s, two fires raged through Bodie, forcing the remaining occupants to flee.

This quick departure provided for Bodie to become a time capsule of the past. 

The shops are still stocked with goods, diner tables remain set, cars sit rusting outside, and the schoolhouse still features the day’s lessons on the board, all waiting for the residents to return even decades later. 

14. Glenrio, Texas/New Mexico

Empty service station in Glenrio

Back in its heyday Glenrio was a great place to stop off while traveling along Route 66. 

If you had visited the area during the 1940s to 1960s, you would have experienced the hustle and bustle of Glenrio’s bars, diners, gas stations, and motels.

Unfortunately for this little town located on the border between Texas and New Mexico, the 1970s brought the development of the I-40, heralding an end to an era as Glenrio started to decline. The residents moved away, and the buildings fell into disrepair.

Today 17 buildings encompass the Glenrio Historic District, and it now exists as a ghost town tourist attraction and a memory for those who visited during its heyday. 

15. Cahawba, Alabama

The Old church in Cahawba, Alabama

Looking through the lists of ghost towns in the USA, you might be surprised to find the former state capital of Alabama. 

Cahawba experienced its heyday from 1819 to 1826 before flooding issues forced the state to relocate its capital to Tuscaloosa.

After the Civil War, the town rose in popularity again, but the occupants were made up of formerly enslaved people this time. 

Unfortunately, the flood waters won out, forcing the abandonment of Cahawba by the early 20th century. 

Today it is known as the Old Cahawba Archaeological Park, showcasing its old buildings, cemeteries, and deserted streets.

Rumor has it that this ghost town in Alabama is frequented by ghosts, with one famous tale including a ghostly orb that appeared in a garden maze that has since vanished.

16. Bannack, Montana

Old mining equipment scattered around in Bannack, Montana

If you are a paranormal enthusiast looking for your own experience, then Bannack is the place for you. 

The rumors surrounding the town are so rife that it was featured on an episode of Travel Channels Ghost Adventures.

Bannack was a former mining town established during the gold rush era, and it was rough and often involved in robberies, holdups, and murders. 

The town’s Sheriff was rumored to be a bandit himself. The occupancy levels of Bannack eventually petered out between the 1930s and 1950s, ultimately leaving it abandoned.

Today the well-preserved Bannack is a state park with over 60 buildings still standing, and visitors are allowed to explore its streets and some of its buildings.

17. South Pass City, Wyoming

A broken wagon by the road in South Pass City in Wyoming

South Pass City is another gold rush era mining town to join the ranks of great ghost towns in the USA. 

The town was established in 1867 when prospectors unearthed a large gold deposit close to the Sweetwater River. 

Within a year of the discovery, South Pass City had swelled to encompass 2000 inhabitants as prospectors flocked to the area.

The residents mainly consisted of men, and the town exhibited the typical dangerous characteristics of frontier living. 

Unfortunately, not for lack of trying, no large gold deposits were found in the area, resulting in a population decline until only 100 people remained in the 1870s.

The last pioneer families left the area in 1949, leaving the buildings, including stores, saloons, hotels, and houses, to fall apart. 

Today you will find a handful of people living in the once-abandoned mining town.

The town has become the South Pass City State Historic Site and has managed to preserve 30 historic buildings dating back to the town’s heyday.

18. Bulowville, Florida

Burnt ruins in Bulowville, Florida

In 1921, Charles Bulow cleared out a 2,200-acre area to build an extensive plantation where he grew cotton, sugar cane, rice, and indigo. 

A few years later, his son, John Bulow, made one of the area’s largest sugar mills on the site to accompany its many crops.

Unfortunately for the Bulow’s, their occupancy on the land was not to last forever, and in 1836 the Seminole Indians set fire to the plantation during the Second Seminole War. 

Even though the fire ravaged the area, it could not wholly destroy the mill and surrounding buildings as they were constructed from local coquina rock, a sturdy material.

Today large oak trees have reclaimed the land of this hunted place in Florida. Still, evidence of the crumbling foundations that were once the slave cabins and plantation houses remains as a reminder to visitors of the volatility of the Florida frontier life.

Visiting Bullowville is one of the things that you can’t miss in Florida.

Final Thoughts On Ghost Towns In The United States

There are numerous fantastic ghost towns in the USA, offering visitors various sights and activities, whether you feel like walking through a Christmas town or want to see how an old mining town might have looked. 

Or maybe you want to see a time capsule of the 50s or experience some paranormal activity. The ghost towns in the USA have got you covered.

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